Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Big Ten's Five Best Gameday Traditions (Dan Wines)

5.)  The Key Jingle - Northwestern
 Let's be honest, Northwestern's football team gets about as much attention as the WNBA.  They range from mediocre to bad nearly every season and for the casual fan, the Northwestern game tends to be the one you skip when your favorite team plays them.  The Key Jingle finishes fifth on this list because of the team's relative anonymity, but it makes the list because it is everything you want in a college football "tradition."  Northwestern students, and presumably other Wildcat fans, take their car keys out and jingle them in unison.  The idea is, win or lose, your grads will park our cars someday.  For what they lack in athleticism, Northwestern students make up for in arrogance  and creativity. 
  This tradition is certainly less popular than some that I will leave off of this list, but the fact that a team that seldom wins has still found a way to taunt the opposition is something I just can't ignore.

4.)  Sparty Watch / Michigan Diag - Michigan State & Michigan

  While not the biggest in the Big Ten, the in-state rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State is intense.  It's been known divide families a few times a year, trust me.  Sparty Watch (or Sparty Guard) and the protection of the brass block M in the Michigan Diag is a tradition similar to those many of you experienced against rivals in high school.  Each year, during the week of the Michigan/Michigan State game, students at each school stand guard over their respective insitution's iconic locale to prevent it from being painted rival colors before the game.  Students take pride in their universities, and having a logo, statue, or mascot defaced is akin to being sucker punched in the gut. 

3.)  Kinnick Stadium's Pink Locker Rooms - Iowa

  This one is perhaps best stated by it's creator, former Hawkeye head coach, Hayden Fry.  "One thing we didn't paint black and gold was the stadium's visitors locker room, which we painted pink. It's a passive color, and we hoped it would put our opponents in a passive mood. Also, pink is often found in girls' bedrooms, and because of that some consider it a sissy color."  I considered ranking this number one on the list, but I question its effectiveness.  There is no question, however, that this idea pisses off opponents before they even hit the field. 
  This tradition is not without controversy, as the visitor's locker rooms have come under fire for being demeaning towards women (absurd) and inappropriate.  As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the better traditions in college football.

*Note - While Iowa's pink locker rooms receive the most attention, they're not alone in this practice.  Visitors to Wisconsin are greeted by a paint scheme that is referred to as prison blue - just what you want to hear before 75 guys get together in a communal shower.

2.)  Script Ohio - Ohio State

Fans of the Buckeyes often claim to have "The Best Damn Band In The Land," and rightfully so.  Since 1936, Script Ohio has been a tradition prior to every OSU home game.  The band, which is in excess of of 220 members, marches and weaves its way into spelling out Ohio.  As icing on the cake to this tradition, one member of the band and occasionally honorary guests, perform the task of "dotting the I" at midfield.  Whether you love Ohio State or hate them, the Buckeye band's Script Ohio is something that should be applauded.  It's an impressive feat.  While the idea was originally presented to Ohio State by the University of Michigan in 1932 as a gesture of sportsmanship, it has been perfected and animated by OSU's marching band.

Script Ohio is just one example of the talent that is present on the field when the players are in their respective locker rooms.  Many of the marching bands in the Big Ten have traditions of their own and are among the nation's best, but OSU's tradition is the most widely recognized.  Unfortunately, because we live in a commercial culture, the marching bands are typically left off of telecasts.  If you want to see some of the best pageantry in college football, buy a ticket, show up early and stay in your seat at halftime.  These bands are good.

1.)  The White Out and Jump Around - Penn State and Wisconsin

These two traditions finish tied atop the list because of their relative similarity.  It is no secret that a night game at Beaver Stadium or Camp Randall is a hostile environment, and these two traditions amplify that fact exponentially.

The White Out is a Penn State tradition made popular during a night game against Ohio State in 2005.  A raucous crowd dressed almost entirely white clothing was on their feet from beginning to end in a 17-10 Nittany Lions victory.  Since then, the White Out has become a tradition during Penn State night games, and while it hasn't been wildly successful recently, it is a sight to behold.  A crowd of 107,000 noisy fans in all white under the lights has become as synonymous with Penn State football as Joe Paterno and his 46 pound glasses.

On the western end of the Big Ten's geographic spectrum, Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, is regarded as one of the toughest places to play in the country.  Adding to the hostile environment is the tradition of piping "Jump Around" by 90's rap group House of Pain in between the third and fourth quarter of every home game.  If you've ever witnessed the Cameron Crazies jumping in unison during Duke basketball games, multiply it by four and put it outside.  While the tradition is most common in the student section, it isn't uncommon to see someone's grandmother drop her pretzel and jump to the song.  People who've been there say you can feel the stadium shake, and watching it on tv I have no trouble believing that. 

Both of these traditions are in their infancy compared to some of the others listed, but their impact on the overall game experience is unrivaled.  It's exciting to see and something that the fan bases take great pride in.
Traditions like these listed, along with the countless others that didn't survive my cut, are as essential a part of college football as the pigskin, the goal posts, and the teams themselves.  Without them, college football wouldn't be the event that it is.  As these traditions further cement themselves in the legacy of each institution, rest assured that as the next generation of college football fans find their way onto campus, new traditions will be added to the list.  If those new ones have anywhere near the impact that some of these do, I can't wait to see them.

Expanding the Blueprint

A quick note to announce that Man Cave Blueprint has added two more writers.  I'm excited to announce that Jeff Bailey and Lotis Butchko will now be contributing to the site.  Both fit the mold that I intended when I started this blog, and will allow for more frequent posts and alternative opinions.  I'm certain that they will each bring unique insights and commentary on a variety of different topics. 

By adding JB and Lotis to the blog, it will diversify the opinions you read here and allow for some creative ideas to develop.  Ideas are currently being tossed around behind the scenes to make your experience more interesting when you stop by the Blueprint.

With real life getting in the way of this blog, I felt it was important to make a concerted effort to add new content on a more regular basis.  I'm confident that the addition of Jeff and Lotis will help make that happen. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why Are People So Captivated By The Heisman?

College football is by far my favorite sport.  Fall Saturdays in the midwest are something that I've cherished for as long as I can remember.  Football starts at noon and ends well after I've gone to sleep.  I love everything about the sport, except for the stupid Heisman trophy.

Every year, everybody with an opinion on sports seems to want to talk Heisman.  It starts as soon as the previous year's bowl season ends.  The articles flood message boards and websites.  Preseason Heisman watch lists pop up seemingly everywhere.  Then, by October, most of those lists look ridiculous.  Last year the hot name was Jevan Snead of Ole Miss.  Todd McShay, aka Mel Kiper with less product in his hair, guaranteed Snead to be a first rounder.  Many of the top 10 preseason Heisman candidate lists included him.  There was only one significant problem; Snead wasn't any good.  Granted, he had a 2 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio, but he was never accurate (55% completions), didn't have a huge arm that makes up for that lack of accuracy, and was somewhat of a baby (transferred from Texas because he couldn't beat out Colt McCoy).  Despite all of this glaring evidence that he was a QB with little experience, a shaky history, and a subpar skillset, people were lead to believe he had a chance of hoisting that worthless trophy at the end of the year.  Instead, Snead stumbled to a 20 touchdown, 20 interception junior year and declared himself eligible for the NFL draft.  Like a midget in line at the amusement park, Snead was overlooked.  This is but one glaring example of why I can't stand the Heisman hype.

Denard Robinson in action against Notre Dame
This season people have been captivated by Denard Robinson's gaudy statistics on a subpar Michigan team.  As the only true threat in Michigan's ground game, Robinson was responsible for nearly all of Michigan's yardage through the first five games.  He was exciting, electric, and everything the talking heads look for early in the season.  In fact, Bob Kravitz, of the Indianapolis Star declared Robinson to be the Heisman winner after Michigan's victory over an awful Indiana team; regardless of what happened the rest of the year.  Really, Bob? The problem is, Mr. Kravitz wasn't alone.  On ESPN's college GameDay we were blitzed with statements like "right now, it's Robinson and everyone else."  Until last week, Michigan played a group of teams with defenses that would struggle in flag football against overweight line cooks.  Missed tackles were the rule, not the exception.  This type of hype is profoundly stupid, and reeks of lazy reporting.

Granted, Robinson's stats through five games were incredible.  Hell, I'm a Michigan fan.  It was fun to watch.  However, I watch every Michigan game, and from Robinson's first pass in week one to his third interception in their loss to Michigan State last week, it was very clear that he takes chances in the passing game and his throws often come late and behind his receivers.  The Herbsteits of the world didn't seem to want to point that out.  In fact, most of the pundits were in awe of his accuracy.  Listen, it's not difficult to complete 70% of your passes when most are three yards.  He's a heck of a player, but he's not the most outstanding player in his conference, let alone the nation.

Not only does the hype get tired and stale, but even the winners of the award increase my apathy towards it.  First of all, 69 of the 75 winners, including 18 of the past 20, have played either quarterback or running back.  The stated mission of the Heisman trust is "The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."  So, college football fans are supposed to believe that over the past 75 seasons, the best player in the country happened to play in the backfield 69 times?  It's beyond my comprehension why this is called "the most prestigious award in college football."  Someone find Gino Torretta and ask him if that trophy is anything more than a glorified paper weight.  I'm sure Wachovia Securities was very proud to "draft" a Heisman winner. 

At the end of this season, a few quarterbacks and running backs will gather in New York.  Perhaps a token receiver or cornerback with zero chance of winning will get a seat next to them.  Many will watch.  For a couple of hours prior to the announcement Chris Fowler will interview their coaches and talk about their unique background stories.  The winner will shed a tear during his speech, the camera will pan to the runners up who will begrudingly applaud the latest member of this "fraternity," and Sportscenter will have it's lede for the morning.  You'll just have to excuse my lack of excitement.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

While You Were Sleeping

There's a reason that of all the iterations of the Rocky series, everybody likes Rocky IV the best. It's us against them, America versus the other guys. In the same sense, that's the exact reason that even the most casual sports fan should be setting an alarm or programming a DVR to catch the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales.
Because the event alternates between Europe and the States, this year finds the golfers across the pond, which means the action is well under way while most of us still have heads on pillows. In much the same way we enjoy watching guys like Michael Phelps make the rest of the world look like they should be swimming with water wings, rooting for the United States in the Ryder Cup just makes you feel good.
In fact, for years I can remember rooting against guys like Colin Montgomerie simply because he was a consistent foil in the Ryder Cup. This event takes the gentlemen in the game and turns them into a group of awkwardly dressed frat boys. Seeing guys turn into Happy Gilmore after a good drive, as Boo Weekley did in 2008 by mounting his driver and galloping toward the fairway, makes golf infinitely more fun.
The Ryder Cup takes all of my favorite golfers, puts them on teams, and lets them get after it. For me, watching the same guys who spend their summers tipping their caps turn into fist pumping, high fiving teammates is one of those moments in sports that make it difficult for me to understand how anyone can say they're not sports fans.
I'm not saying that golf needs to change anything about the regular events, because part of what makes the Ryder Cup so enjoyable is the fact that it is the polar opposite of nearly every other golf tournament. It develops clearly defined rooting interests, and for one week every other year, it makes me want Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy to miss three footers. It's the only event where you'll hear a crowd cheer after a missed putt, and the only one defined by chants of "USA! USA!" or "Ole, ole, ole." The sometimes irreverent fans make the event all that more enjoyable when one of "our guys" sinks a 30 foot putt to win a match.
Much like Rocky IV somehow made us all like bad acting and Philadelphia for two hours, the Ryder Cup is a golf event that even non-golf fans should take the time to watch. If you need further encouragement to give it a chance, find that video of Boo Weekley from 2008, and tell me it doesn't make you want to see more.